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John Gay, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter best known for his work on Run Silent Run Deep, Separate Tables and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, has died. He was 92.
Gay, who began his six-decade career as an actor and writer during the Golden Age of Television, died Feb. 4 in Santa Monica, the WGA announced. He often was in demand by the top directors of the day, scripting projects for the likes of Robert Wise, John Huston, Vincente Minnelli and John Sturges.
Gay also earned an Emmy nomination for scripting Fatal Vision, a controversial NBC 1984 docudrama about the 1970 Jeffrey MacDonald murders that starred Gary Cole as the killer of his pregnant wife and two children.
After actor Burt Lancaster happened to catch one of his television shows, Gay was called to Hollywood and soon found himself on a soundstage watching Lancaster and Clark Gable as submarine commanders in his first screenplay, Run Silent Run Deep (1958), directed by Wise at United Artists.
Gay earned his Oscar nomination for co-writing, with playwright Terence Rattigan, the adapted screenplay for Separate Tables, the Delbert Mann drama that starred Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, Wendy Hiller, David Niven and Lancaster. (Hiller and Niven won Oscars for their performances.)
Gay also penned the romantic comedy The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963), which starred Glenn Ford as a widowed father and Ron Howard as his son.
His other feature credits include The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), The Hallelujah Trail (1965), No Way to Treat a Lady (1968), The Power (1968), Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), Soldier Blue (1970), Pocket Money (1972), Hennessy (1975) and A Matter of Time (1976).
Born on April 1, 1924, in Whittier, Calif., Gay and his wife, Barbara, starred on Mr. and Mrs. Mystery, a series for WOR in New York for which he “wrote every episode and performed every beer commercial.” That led to writing gigs on such network dramas as Playhouse 90, The Alcoa Hour, General Electric Theater, Lux Video Theatre and Goodyear Playhouse.
His TV résumé also includes the series Shadow of the Cloak and Espionage; the telefilms All My Darling Daughters, The Red Badge of Courage, The Amazing Howard Hughes, The Court Martial of George Armstrong Custer, Captains Courageous, Dial M for Murder and Inherit the Wind; and the miniseries Windmills of the Gods, Around the World in 80 Days, Blind Faith and Burden of Proof.
The Writers Guild of America West honored Gay — a guild member since 1958 — with its highest honor for television writing, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award, in 1984; the Morgan Cox Award, for guild service, in 1992; and the Edmund H. North Award, for his “courageous leadership, strength of purpose and continuing selfless activity on behalf of the guild through the years,” in 2003.
He also served on the WGAW’s board of directors (1971-75, 1977-79), was a guild vice president (1985-87) and helped lead writers through several difficult negotiations.
During one WGA strike, he wrote Diversions and Delights, a one-man play that imagined Oscar Wilde delivering a talk to a Paris theater just before his death. It opened in 1978 on Broadway, starring Vincent Price, and went on to play around the world.
In 2008, Gay published his autobiography, Any Way I Can — 50 Years in Show Business, co-written with his daughter, Jennifer Gay Summers.
She survives him, as does another daughter, Elizabeth; son Lawrence; and three grandchildren. The family asks that donations be made to the Writers Guild Foundation in honor of him.
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